Living in New York means that you’re spoiled when it comes to good art. Whether it’s gallivanting around Chelsea’s galleries or keeping it fresh with the latest loft show in Bushwick, art spaces are abundant. Yet that doesn’t mean they’re all worth your time. But this single-floor, non-profit, artist-run art and event space in the Lower East Side known as 1:1 certainly is. The brainchild of artists Alex Sloane, Leigha Mason, Jarrett Earnest and Whitney Vangrin, 1:1 is an arts project space with intentions of serving as a radical antidote to an increasingly disenchanted, market-driven art society, which is starting to feel like what Jarrett describes as “self-cancelling white noise.”
Already boasting a list of internationally acclaimed performance artists, 1:1 played host to names such as Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, writer Mary Anne Caws, AA Bronson, poet Simon Pettet, Faith Ringgold, and others. Alongside these more established names, they also invite emerging artists, who are comparably intellectually rigorous and artistically revolutionary, to show their work. 1:1 wants to feed you with a meaningful experience, join in with their conversation, and provide a kind of food for your social-psychological-political-artistic thought. They invite you to step through their red door that has an invisible sign reading ‘Warning: Enter with an open mind. (A very, very open mind.)’
Why did you guys decide to kick off 1:1 as a performance art space, and not as a traditional art gallery?
Alex Sloane : Working on the body, with the body, the body becomes the focus. I think that is something we can all ascribe to.
Jarrett Earnest : At the same time, there isn’t any idealism around performance as the answer to the problems of commodification of the art world. Because what we’ve seen in the past few years is that performance is almost the most corrupt form, because it’s so easy to be used by the institution as a kind of museological event, it’s like a style, now the artist is a museological stylist, and… you can come to a party. I think that we’re very aware that performance in itself has its own kind of complexities that we’re also trying to put pressure on. After all, it is inherently interdisciplinary.
Whitney Vangrin: Young people in New York don’t need another art gallery, we need space.
As artists, what other spaces in New York inspire you?
Leigha Mason : I love demolition and construction sites and especially their machinery. I always think of Times Square as this testimony to human potential, there are all these resources, and they’re organized in this particular way, and it’s amazing; it is it’s own lightsource! What if that kind of mode of working had nothing to do with marketing? There are infinite ways to reorganize all that. That’s one way to look at seizing a ‘space’; a site where you can exercise different ways of realizing human potential that doesn’t have to be utilitarian. ACTIVE PLEASURE.
WV: I’m working on a performance trilogy called Blood, Sweat, Tears. For part of that, I will be at the top of the Empire State Building. In terms of art spaces, we love Participant Inc., Nyehaus, and Reena Spaulings.
JE: We’re indebted to the history of alternative art spaces in New York, especially the legacy of Franklin Furnace. Martha Wilson has helped us so much.
Performance art as a medium is physical experience that can’t be monetarily purchased; the question is, why choose not to sell?
AS : Everything can be sold. The distinction is that doesn’t dictate what we’re interested in.
JE : The point is that we’re not against selling things, but we aren’t predicated on it. Buying artist’ work is the best way to support 1:1 and the artists (who in many cases don’t have any other context in the market).
We all know that sometimes the art world can be quite esoteric, and opening up a space to the public naturally comes with its own challenges. What have been the biggest advantage or disadvantage in allowing this to happen?
JE : We are aware that we are involved in an operation of trust. The potential is definitely always there for total chaos and utter destruction, but that is what makes it special.
WV: May and June were particularly wonderful because we were basically an open forum; we have all these tables and texts and things and we just invited people to come talk, work, use the space. Then Leigha and I were part of a film production for a short movie called ‘IRL’ directed by Grant Singer and written by Patrik Sandberg, and the film ended up using 1:1 as a base, and also filming here.
AS: Yes, it has been a fantastic and very high energy.
1:1 is first and foremost a performance art space, but you also have poetry readings and artists lectures. Can you tell us a little about your curatorial process ?
JE: We have a united sensibility. We are more interested in people and ideas than media distinctions. Generally we have been doing a month long exhibition, with two or three related events, which allows us to really dictate the context in which we see the work. Since we see 1:1 as an art project, we make curatorial decisions in a way similar to making formal decisions in a painting. We’re archiving up to something.
What can your audience expect from 1:1 in the following months to come?
LM: Right now we have some protest posters that were sent to us in alliance with a show happening at the Berkeley Art Museum. Our next exhibition is a project by NY photographer Emily Kinni. She makes really intense photographs of specific and culturally charged interiors. She has been traveling throughout the US to the states in which the death penalty is no longer legal, and documenting the previously functional execution chambers. On view at 1:1 will be her photographs, some video, and bizarre supplemental prison documents. The reception will be July 12th 7pm!
Check out 1:1 at 121 Essex Street 2nd Floor, New York, NY between Rivington St. and Delancey St.